SOUTH CHARLESTON — The Board of Governors of BridgeValley Community and Technical College (BVCTC) voted to adopt a master plan for the college during its April 1 meeting.

The plan was developed by the college in collaboration with ZMM Architects/Engineers. In a third-party role, ZMM assessed BVCTC campuses and facilities to recommend and maintain a size appropriate for the school’s programs, enrollment and resources, according to a press release from the college via Auge+Gray+Drake Collective Works. The master plan was designed to maximize the student opportunities for success and match the college’s long-term goals, officials say.

"In unanimously passing this master plan, we have made the decisions necessary to ensure BridgeValley is positioned to become the preeminent community and technical college in West Virginia," said Board Chair Ashley Deem. "We are excited about the future and the continued success of our students, faculty and staff at both our South Charleston and Montgomery campuses."

Dr. Casey Sacks, president of BVCTC, added, "We have looked at both campuses and the associated expenses. We want to move forward in a way which will best serve our students now and into the future. I believe these decisions allow us to grow BridgeValley while meeting the higher education needs of our students and our community. This is the first step towards many great things for college and the Kanawha Valley. I am excited about our future."

Enrollment trends factored into the recommendations, as well. Due to a variety of factors, including the impact of Covid-19, full-time enrollment declined from its peak of around 1,500 in 2014-15 to slightly over 1,000 in the spring of 2021, before improving to about 1,200 this past fall.

The ZMM findings included in the master plan include:

• The national average for ideal overall facility space is 135-140 square feet (SF) per full-time equivalent enrolled (FTE) student. This recommendation provides the ideal balance that allows the space students need for a modern, full and productive learning environment while the school itself can operate efficiently without having to allocate an exorbitant percentage of its annual budget to facility costs, utilities and upkeep. BVCTC campuses by the numbers (campus current enrollment) include South Charleston at 259 SF/student and Montgomery at 1,677 SF/student.

The Montgomery campus is 12 times larger (in square footage) than recommended for enrollment. The problem this extra square footage presents is the high cost of maintaining the buildings themselves, which negatively affects the BVCTC budget each year, the findings noted. It is simply not sustainable or responsible, officials say. The master plan shows the facility costs (including custodial expenses) are: South Charleston —three buildings/areas; 154,677 SF; $1,174,851 annually; and Montgomery — 15 buildings/areas; 300,062 SF; $878,714 annually.

In addition, several of the Montgomery facilities would require costly repairs and/or renovations which are not feasible given the college's limited budget, according to the findings. To protect the health of the college, the recommendations in the plan include right-sizing the Montgomery campus, over time and as financially feasible. The plan calls for reducing the total number of occupied facilities from 13 to five, which would bring the square footage per student down from 1,677 to 524. Over the next 10 years, the elimination of Westmoreland Hall, GRID (engineering lab building), Pathfinder (engineering classroom building), Ratliff Hall, Printing Innovation Center, Morris Creek Watershed building, former Brown Chevrolet building and a single-family residence from the college building inventory is suggested.

These actions would save more than $475,000 annually (plus custodial costs savings) and $290,000 per year in associated utility and rent costs, it is estimated.

In pursuing these objectives, BVCTC is making efforts to transfer ownership or sell the above-listed facilities to another state entity with the goal of keeping them occupied and active in the Montgomery community.

The master plan also includes the expansion of BVCTC’s nursing program, which will occupy an additional 8,000 SF in Building 2000 (north wing of third floor) on the South Charleston campus at a cost of approximately $64,000 a year. This space is expected to help equip the college to educate and graduate more certified nurses ready to enter the workforce, fill in-demand positions and help solve the state’s nursing shortage, the findings read.

An open forum is scheduled for April 8 at 9 a.m. in the Davis Hall auditorium in Montgomery for all members of the community who are interested in learning about the specific recommendations in the master plan.

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